HMS Monarch firing broadside
Here we see the Orion class battleship HMS Monarch firing a broadside from her 13.5in guns. The Orion class were the first British dreadnoughts to use 13.5in guns.
British Ironclads for Broadside and Ram
An interesting period. I knew of HMS Captain capsizing in a storm off Cape Trafalgar on her maiden voyage. I wonder if a war with France would've resulted in regular deployment with the Channel Fleet in which her unfortunate failing would have been addressed.
I would probably err on the side of conservatism re CAPTAIN, the conditions in which she was lost were pretty severe so I'd restrict chance of loss to bad weather only.That said I'd think about a special rule for susceptibility to flooding damage given her low freeboard
Yes, that's what I was thinking, given that she went over in a Force 8-9. I was also wondering about the turret arc of fire, which was very limited fore and aft, even when compared to Monarch. It's more interesting to give the two ships different capabilities, however, if only to distinguish between them for wargaming purposes.
Love the rules David. great fun and very easy to play. Thank for publishing them and providing the inspiration!
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the reputation of the Senior Service is at stake! Actually, I have no doubt that the most modern and capable warships would have been deployed to hunt down the French menace, alongside every other ironclad that could be dispatched for the chase. It's all a bit like the Hunt for the Bismarck. only 70 years earlier!
A very good analogy. Yes, after HMS Northumberland went down off Cherbourg I can see Victoria's navy's reaction to her fate being the equivalent of the poor Hood's.
I have now decided to give HMS Captain the same broadside DF as HMS Monarch, as her turrets really could not fire 360 degrees. This means that Monarch and Captain are virtually identical, so I may also work out a low freeboard rule for the latter, as suggested, to make them a little different?
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Last September when we visited Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, we had an unexpected treat: the spectacle of HMS Victory firing a full 64-gun rolling broadside in honour of the new National Museum of the Royal Navy which incorporates all the naval museums under one umbrella. My photos (below) of the broadside don't do justice to the event but I found a You Tube video of it made by the companies who provided the pyrotechnics and set them off. Even with the sound on full blast, it doesn't do full justice to the real volume and depth of the noise.
/>We were also lucky enough to be able to visit Henry VIII's warship Mary Rose (which sank in the Solent in 1545) just before the viewing gallery closed for the building of a new museum which will display the remains of the ship and a reconstruction of its missing side to full advantage, now that the lengthy preservation process of the surviving hull is complete.
HMS Victory firing rolling broadside
Imagine this at the battle of Trafalgar, 1805, where up to seventy four ships were firing at the same time.
HMS Victory is officially the oldest commissioned warship in the world – even 213 years after she fired her guns at Trafalgar, she is still listed in the Royal Navy as part of the fleet – amazing.
Perhaps it’s time to send a couple of modern gunboats to bombard Paris – or Westminster along with a demand for immediate Brexit? Only joking, censors and libtards!
NOTE: There are more then 1700 groups in the world calling themselves 'Templars' or 'Knights Templar' which is a name they can freely use. We, however, are not associated with any one of them.
Gunnery trials [ edit ]
A trial was undertaken in 1870 to compare the accuracy and rate of fire of turret-mounted heavy guns with those in a centre-battery ship. The target was a 600 feet (180 m) long, 60 feet (18 m) high rock off Vigo. The speed of the ships was 4–5 knots (4.6–5.8 mph 7.4–9.3 km/h) ("some accounts say stationary"). Ε] Each ship fired for five minutes, with the guns starting "loaded and very carefully trained". Ε] The guns fired Palliser shells with battering charges at a range of about 1,000 yards (0.91 km). Ε] Three out of the Captain's four hits were achieved with the first salvo firing this salvo caused the ship to roll heavily (±20°) smoke from firing made aiming difficult. Ε] The Monarch and the Hercules also did better with their first salvo, were inconvenienced by the smoke of firing, and to a lesser extent were caused to roll by firing. Ε] On the Hercules the gunsights were on the guns, and this worked better than the turret roof gunsights used by the other ships. Ε]
The English warship Mary Rose , one of the earliest warships with a broadside armament illustration from the Anthony Roll, c. 1546
Since ancient times, war at sea had been fought much like on land: with melee weapons and bows and arrows, but on floating wooden platforms rather than battlefields. Though the introduction of guns was a significant change, it only slowly changed the dynamics of ship-to-ship combat. The first guns on ships were small wrought-iron pieces mounted on the open decks and in the fighting tops, often requiring only one or two men to handle them. They were designed to injure, kill or simply stun, shock and frighten the enemy prior to boarding.  As guns were made more durable to withstand stronger gunpowder charges, they increased their potential to inflict critical damage to the vessel rather than just its crew. Since these guns were much heavier than the earlier anti-personnel weapons, they had to be placed lower in the ships, and fire from gunports, to avoid ships becoming unstable. In Northern Europe the technique of building ships with clinker planking made it difficult to cut ports in the hull clinker-built (or clench-built) ships had much of their structural strength in the outer hull. The solution was the gradual adoption of carvel-built ships that relied on an internal skeleton structure to bear the weight of the ship.  The development of propulsion during the 15th century from single-masted, square-rigged cogs to three-masted carracks with a mix of square and lateen sails made ships nimbler and easier to maneuver. 
Clinker built is a method of boat building where the edges of hull planks overlap each other. Where necessary in larger craft shorter planks can be joined end to end into a longer strake or hull plank. The technique developed in northern Europe and was successfully used by the Anglo-Saxons, Frisians, Scandinavians, and typical for the Hanseatic cog. A contrasting method, where plank edges are butted smoothly seam to seam, is known as carvel construction.
Carvel built or carvel planking is a method of boat building where hull planks are laid edge to edge and fastened to a robust frame, thereby forming a smooth surface. Traditionally the planks are neither attached to, nor slotted into, each other, having only a caulking sealant between the planks to keep water out. Modern carvel builders may attach the planks to each other with glues and fixings.
A cog is a type of ship that first appeared in the 10th century, and was widely used from around the 12th century on. Cogs were clinker-built, generally of oak, which was an abundant timber in the Baltic region of Prussia. This vessel was fitted with a single mast and a square-rigged single sail. These vessels were mostly associated with seagoing trade in medieval Europe, especially the Hanseatic League, particularly in the Baltic Sea region. They ranged from about 15 to 25 meters in length with a beam of 5 to 8 meters, and the largest cog ships could carry up to about 200 tons.
Gunports cut in the hull of ships had been introduced as early as 1501. According to tradition the inventor was a Breton shipwright called Descharges, but it is just as likely to have been a gradual adaptation of loading ports in the stern of merchant vessels that had already been in use for centuries.  Initially, the gunports were used to mount heavy so-called stern chasers pointing aft, but soon gun ports migrated to the sides of ships. This made possible coordinated volleys from all the guns on one side of a ship for the first time in history, at least in theory. Guns in the 16th century were considered to be in fixed positions and were intended to be fired independently rather than in concerted volleys. It was not until the 1590s that the word "broadside" in English was commonly used to refer to gunfire from the side of a ship rather than the ship's side itself. 
A chase gun, usually distinguished as bow chaser and stern chaser was a cannon mounted in the bow or stern of a sailing ship. They were used to attempt to slow down an enemy ship either chasing (pursuing) or being chased, when the ship's broadside could not be brought to bear. Typically, the chasers were used to attempt to damage the rigging and thereby cause the target to lose performance.
USS Iowa firing her guns broadside (1984). Note that intervening structures such as the bridge tower would prevent all of the guns from being focused directly forward or aft.
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.
A gun turret is a location from which weapons can be fired that affords protection, visibility, and some cone of fire. A modern gun turret is generally a weapon mount that houses the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in some degree of azimuth and elevation.
Admiral John Byng (baptised 29 October 1704 – 14 March 1757) was a Royal Navy officer. After joining the navy at the age of thirteen, he participated at the Battle of Cape Passaro in 1718. Over the next thirty years he built up a reputation as a solid naval officer and received promotion to vice-admiral in 1747. Byng is best known for failing to relieve a besieged British garrison during the Battle of Minorca at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War. Byng had sailed for Minorca at the head of a hastily assembled fleet of vessels, some of which were in poor condition. He fought an inconclusive engagement with a French fleet off the Minorca coast, and then elected to return to Gibraltar to repair his ships. Byng was subsequently court-martialled and found guilty of failing to “do his utmost” to prevent Minorca falling to the French. He was sentenced to death and shot by firing squad on 14 March 1757.
Byng’s failure to relieve the garrison at Minorca caused public outrage among fellow officers and the country at large. Byng was brought home to be tried by court-martial for breach of the Articles of War, which had recently been revised to mandate capital punishment for officers who did not do their utmost against the enemy, either in battle or pursuit.
The revision to the Articles followed an event in 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession, when a young lieutenant named Baker Phillips was court-martialed and shot after his ship was captured by the French. His captain had done nothing to prepare the vessel for action and was killed almost immediately by a broadside. Taking command, the inexperienced junior officer was forced to surrender the ship when she could no longer be defended. The negligent behaviour of Phillips’s captain was noted by the subsequent court martial and a recommendation for mercy was entered, but Phillips’ sentence was approved by the Lords Justices of Appeal. This sentence angered some of parliament, who felt that an officer of higher rank would likely have been spared or else given a light punishment, and that Phillips had been executed because he was a powerless junior officer and thus a useful scapegoat. The Articles of War were amended to become one law for all: the death penalty for any officer of any rank who did not do his utmost against the enemy in battle or pursuit.
The court martial sitting in judgement on Byng acquitted him of personal cowardice and disaffection, and convicted him only for not having done his utmost, since he chose not to pursue the superior French fleet, deciding instead to protect his own. Once the court determined that Byng had “failed to do his utmost”, it had no discretion over punishment under the Articles of War, and therefore condemned Byng to death. However, its members recommended that the Lords of the Admiralty ask King George II to exercise his royal prerogative of mercy.
First Lord of the Admiralty Richard Grenville-Temple was granted an audience with the King to request clemency, but this was refused in an angry exchange. Four members of the board of the court martial petitioned Parliament, seeking to be relieved from their oath of secrecy to speak on Byng’s behalf. The Commons passed a measure allowing this, but the Lords rejected the proposal.
Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder was aware that the Admiralty was at least partly to blame for the loss at Minorca due to the poor manning and repair of the fleet. Lord Newcastle, the politician responsible, had by now joined the Prime Minister in an uneasy political coalition and this made it difficult for Pitt to contest the court martial verdict as strongly as he would have liked. He did, however, petition the King to commute the death sentence. The appeal was refused Pitt and King George II were political opponents, with Pitt having pressed for George to relinquish his hereditary position of Elector of Hanover as being a conflict of interest with the government’s policies in Europe.
The severity of the penalty, combined with suspicion that the Admiralty sought to protect themselves from public anger over the defeat by throwing all the blame on the admiral, led to a reaction in favour of Byng in both the Navy and the country, which had previously demanded retribution. Pitt, then Leader of the House of Commons, told the King: “the House of Commons, Sir, is inclined to mercy”, to which George responded: “You have taught me to look for the sense of my people elsewhere than in the House of Commons.”
The King did not exercise his prerogative to grant clemency. Following the court martial and pronouncement of sentence, Admiral Byng had been detained aboard HMS Monarch in the Solent and, on 14 March 1757, he was taken to the quarterdeck for execution in the presence of all hands and men from other ships of the fleet in boats surrounding Monarch. The admiral knelt on a cushion and signified his readiness by dropping his handkerchief, whereupon a platoon of Royal Marines shot John Byng dead.
Byng’s execution was satirized by Voltaire in his novel Candide. In Portsmouth, Candide witnesses the execution of an officer by firing squad and is told that “in this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others”.
Byng was the last of his rank to be executed in this fashion and, 22 years after the event, the Articles of War were amended to allow “such other punishment as the nature and degree of the offence shall be found to deserve” as an alternative to capital punishment. In 2007, some of Byng’s descendants petitioned the government for a posthumous pardon. The Ministry of Defence refused (arseholes Ed.). Members of his family continue to seek a pardon, along with a group at Southill in Bedfordshire where the Byng family lived.
Battle of Copenhagen
Date of the Battle of Copenhagen: 2 nd April 1801.
Place of the Battle of Copenhagen: the coast of Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark.
Combatants at the Battle of Copenhagen: A British Fleet against the Danish Fleet.
Commanders at the Battle of Copenhagen: Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and Vice Admiral Lord Nelson against the Danish Crown Prince.
Winner of the Battle of Copenhagen: The British Fleet.
The Fleets at the Battle of Copenhagen:
Danish Crown Prince Frederick: Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
The British Fleet: Nelson’s Division, His Majesty’s Ships Elephant (Nelson’s Flagship: Captain Foley, 74 guns), Russell (Captain Cumming, 74 guns), Bellona (Captain Thompson, 74 guns), Edgar (Captain Murray, 74 guns), Ganges (Captain Freemantle, 74 guns), Monarch (Captain Moss, 74 guns), Defiance (Rear Admiral Graves’ Flagship: Captain Retalick, 74 guns), Polyphemus (Captain Lawford, 64 guns), Ardent (Captain Bertie, 64 guns), Agamemnon (Captain Fancourt, 64 guns), Glatton (Captain William Bligh, 54 guns), Isis (Captain Walker, 50 guns), Frigates, La Desiree (Captain Inman, 40 guns), Amazon (Captain Riou , 38 guns), Blanche (Captain Hammond, 36 guns), Alcimene (Captain Sutton, 32 guns), Sloops: Arrow (Commander Bolton, 30 guns), Dart (Commander Devonshire, 30 guns), Zephyr (Lieutenant Upton, 14 guns), Otter (Lieutenant McKinlay, 14 guns).
Parker’s Division: His Majesty’s Ships London (Flagship, Captain Domett, 98 guns), St George (Captain Hardy, 98 guns), Warrior (Captain Tyler, 74 guns), Defence (Captain Paulet, 74 guns), Saturn (Captain Lambert, 74 guns), Ramillies (Captain Dixon, 74 guns), Raisonable (Captain Dilkes, 64 guns), Veteran (Captain Dickson, 64 guns).
In addition the Trekroner Fortress and numerous batteries along the coast.
Captain Riou’s ship HMS Amazon: Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Ships and Armaments at the Battle of Copenhagen:
Life on a sailing warship of the 18 th and 19 th Century, particularly the large ships of the line, was crowded and hard. Discipline was enforced with extreme violence, small infractions punished with public lashings. The food, far from good, deteriorated as ships spent time at sea. Drinking water was in short supply and usually brackish. Shortage of citrus fruit and fresh vegetables meant that scurvy quickly set in. The great weight of guns and equipment and the necessity to climb rigging in adverse weather conditions frequently caused serious injury.
Warships carried their main armament in broadside batteries along the sides. Ships were classified according to the number of guns carried, or the number of decks carrying batteries. The size of gun on the line of battle ships was up to 24 pounder, firing heavy iron balls or chain and link shot designed to wreck rigging. The first discharge, loaded before action began, was always the most effective.
HMS Elephant Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Ships manoeuvred to deliver broadsides in the most destructive manner the greatest effect being achieved by firing into an enemy’s stern or bow, so that the shot travelled the length of the ship, wreaking havoc and destruction.
The Danish ships at the Battle of Copenhagen were moored to the jetties. The British ships anchored alongside the moored Danish Fleet and the firing was broadside to broadside at a range of a few yards.
Ships carried a variety of smaller weapons on the top deck and in the rigging, from swivel guns firing grape shot or canister (bags of musket balls) to hand held muskets and pistols, each crew seeking to annihilate the enemy officers and sailors on deck.
Wounds in Eighteenth Century naval fighting were terrible. Cannon balls ripped off limbs or, striking wooden decks and bulwarks or guns and metalwork, drove splinter fragments across the ship causing horrific wounds. Falling masts and rigging inflicted severe crush injuries. Sailors stationed aloft fell into the sea from collapsing masts and rigging to be drowned. Heavy losses were caused when a ship finally sank.
Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by C.A. Lorentzen
Ships’ crews of all nations were tough and disciplined. The British, with continual blockade service against France and Spain, were particularly well drilled.
British captains were responsible for recruiting their ship’s crew. Men were taken wherever they could be found, largely by the press gang. All nationalities served on British ships, although several ships permitted Danish crewmen to transfer rather than serve against their own countrymen. Loyalty for a crew lay primarily with their ship. Once the heat of battle subsided there was little animosity against the enemy. Great efforts were made by British crews to rescue the sailors of foundering Danish ships at the end of the Battle of Copenhagen.
Map of the the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: map by John Fawkes
Captain Riou who led the attack on the Trekroner Fortress and was killed at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Account of the Battle of Copenhagen:
In early 1801, Britain faced a coalition of northern European states, masterminded by France, combined in hostile neutrality against Britain, the Northern Confederation. Those states were Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Prussia. The British Admiralty ordered Admiral Sir Hyde Parker with a British fleet to the Baltic, with Admiral Lord Nelson as his second in command, to break up the confederation.
On 18 th March 1801, the British Fleet anchored in the Kattegat, the entrance to the Baltic from the North Sea, and British diplomats set off for Copenhagen.
It was Nelson’s plan that the British Fleet should attack the Russian squadron wintering in the port of Revel, the Russian navy being the strongest and the dominant naval force in the Baltic.
There was a lack of trust between Parker and Nelson Parker keeping Nelson at arm’s length, while the British diplomats negotiated with the Danes to obtain their withdrawal from the coalition.
The negotiations with the Danes exasperated Nelson, a man of action, who wanted to attack the Danes and destroy their fleet, before moving on to Revel and the Russian ships. Nelson’s flagship HMS St George had been cleared for action for a week.
On 23 rd March 1801, Parker called a council of war at which the British diplomats revealed that the Danish Crown Prince and his government, actively hostile to Britain, were not prepared to withdraw Denmark from the coalition and that the defences of Copenhagen were being strengthened.
Nelson urged that the Danish Fleet be attacked without delay, saying: “Let it be by the Sound, by the Belt, or anyhow, only lose not an hour.”
On 26 th March 1801, the British Fleet moved towards the Sound, the gateway to the Baltic, and the great Danish fortress of Kronenburg. Preparing for the battle, Nelson moved his flag to the smaller ship Elephant, 74 guns, whose captain, Foley, had led the attack at the Battle of the Nile.
On 30 th March 1801, the wind was fair for the British advance on Copenhagen and the British Fleet passed the Sound, keeping to the Swedish side.
Admiral Nelson forcing the Passage of the Sound before the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Robert Dodd
In the event, the Swedes held their fire, while the Danes at Cronenburg fired without effect, the range being too great. The British Fleet anchored five miles below Copenhagen, allowing the senior officers to reconnoitre the city’s defences in the lugger Skylark. During this reconnaissance, key buoys, removed by the Danes, were replaced by pilots and sailing masters in the British service.
Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Under the British plan the commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, would advance from the north with the largest British ships, thereby forestalling any relieving attack by the Swedish Fleet or a Russian squadron. Nelson would take his division into the channel outside Copenhagen Harbour, and, sailing northwards up the channel, attack the Danish warships moored along the bank, until he reached the largest ships moored by the powerful Danish fortress of Trekroner, at the entrance to Copenhagen Harbour.
Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Adelsteen Normann
Admiral Sir Hyde Parker generously left the planning to Nelson, even offering him two more ships of the line for his squadron than Nelson had requested.
On 1 st April 1801, Nelson carried out his final reconnaissance on the frigate Amazon. The captain of Amazon, Captain Riou, impressed him most favourably and Nelson resolved to give him a leading role in the attack.
On the night of 1 st April 1801, Nelson drafted his final plans and briefed his officers, while Captain Hardy ventured right up to the Danish ships in a long boat and took soundings the pilots placing the last of the buoys.
Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Nicholas Pocock
Nelson’s plan was simple: his ships in line ahead would sail into the inner channel, Royal Passage, each ship anchoring in its appointed place and attacking its assigned Danish rival. Captain Riou in HMS Amazon was to lead a squadron of smaller ships and attack the Trekroner Fortress, which was to be stormed by marines and soldiers at a suitable moment, after it had been reduced by bombardment.
HMS Edgar: Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by W.T. Baldwin
At 8am on 2 nd April 1801, the assault began, with His Majesty’s Ship Edgar (Captain Murray, 74 guns) leading the division from its anchorage and tacking from the Outer Deep into the Royal Passage. Immediately, disaster struck Nelson’s division as HMS Agamemnon (Captain Fancourt, 64 guns), Nelson’s old ship, unable to weather the turn into the channel, ran aground on the shoal known as the Middle Ground. Polyphemus (Captain Lawford, 64 guns), taking over Agamemnon’s lead role, made the U turn into the Royal Passage and came under heavy fire from the Danish ship Provesteen (Captain Lassen, 56 guns).
The following ships, Isis (Captain Walker, 50 guns), Glatton (Captain William Bligh, 54 guns) and Ardent (Captain Bertie, 64 guns), made the turn and, anchoring, engaged the Danish vessels they had been allocated.
Attempting to pass these ships, Bellona (Captain Thompson, 74 guns) grounded on the Middle Ground shoal, as did the following Russell (Captain Cumming, 74 guns). Stuck fast, these ships fired on the Danes as best they could, but several of the guns on Bellona burst, killing their crews, due to the age or the miscasting of the barrels, or overcharging in an effort to achieve greater range.
Nelson’s British Fleet sails up the Royal Channel to attack the Danish Fleet and the Trekroner Citadel (The three British ships aground to the right are Bellona, Russell and Agamemnon): Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by John Thomas Serres
The grounding of Agamemnon, Bellona and Russell caused the Trekroner Fortress to be left unmarked, requiring Riou to carry out the bombardment with his squadron of smaller vessels, the billowing smoke concealing his ships and protecting them initially from excessive damage.
Nelson, in Elephant (Captain Foley, 74 guns), took the anchorage allocated to Bellona, with Ganges (Captain Freemantle, 74 guns) and Monarch (Captain Moss, 74 guns) anchoring immediately in front of Elephant. With the line in place, the battle fell to a slogging gunnery match between the British ships and the Danish ships and batteries, floating and land, which lasted some two hours.
Lieutenant Willemoes of the Royal Danish Navy fights his ship Gerner Radeau during the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Christian Mølsted
To the north, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, the British commander-in-chief, witnessed with increasing anxiety the heavy bombardment, as the large ships of the line in his squadron beat slowly down the channel, the wind fair for Nelson but contrary for them. Seeing the intensity of the battle, Parker concluded that he should give Nelson the opportunity to break off the action, and hoisted the signal to disengage, giving the battle its most famed episode.
Admiral Lord Nelson puts the telescope to his blind eye at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Nelson’s signal officer, seeing the flagship’s message, queried whether the commander-in-chief’s signal should be repeated to the other ships, to which Nelson directed that only an acknowledgement was to be flown, while signal 16, the order for close action, be maintained.
No ship in Nelson’s division acted on Parker’s signal, except Captain Riou’s squadron, attacking the Trekroner Fortress. Riou, expecting that Nelson would call off the assault, turned his ship to begin the withdrawal. The Danes redoubled their fire, causing significant damage and casualties on Riou’s ships, with one shot cutting down a party of marines and the next killing Riou himself.
Nelson turned to Colonel Stewart, commanding the contingent of soldiers carried in the fleet, and said ‘Do you know what’s shown on board of the commander in chief? Number 39, to leave off action! Leave off action! Now damn me if I do.’ Turning next to his flag captain, Nelson said ‘You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.’ Nelson then raised his telescope to his blind eye and said ‘I really do not see the signal.’
By 2pm on 2 nd April 1801, much of the Danish line ceased firing, with ships adrift and on fire, several having surrendered, their captains now on board Elephant.
Captain Thesiger Royal Navy goes ashore with Nelson’s letter to the Danish Crown Prince Frederick at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by C.A. Lorentzen
Captain Thesiger, a British officer with extensive experience of the Baltic Sea from service in the Russian navy, went ashore with correspondence from Nelson to the Danish Crown Prince, inviting an armistice. During the negotiations, only the batteries on Amag Island, at the southern end of the Danish line, the Trekoner Fortress and a few ships continued to fire.
A senior Danish officer, Adjutant General Lindholm, went on board Elephant to negotiate, directing the Trekoner Fortress to stop firing on his way. The British ships also ceased fire and the battle effectively ended.
Danish floating battery and ship of the line under fire at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Defiance (Rear Admiral Graves’ Flagship: Captain Retalick, 74 guns) and Elephant went aground and the Danish Flagship, Dannebroge (Captains Fischer and Braun, 80 guns), grounded and blew up, with substantial casualties.
The next morning, 3 rd April 1801, Nelson went aboard the Danish ship Syaelland, anchored under the guns of the Trekoner Fortress, and took the surrender of her captain Stein Bille, who refused to strike to any officer other than Nelson himself.
British destroying Danish ships under repair after the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
British gunboats took the Danish vessel in tow to add to the clutch of Danish ships that had been taken in the battle. 19 Danish vessels were sunk, burnt or captured.
Just before the Battle of Copenhagen, on 24 th March 1801, the Tsar of Russia, Paul I, was murdered by members of the St Petersburg court, and replaced by his anti-French son, Alexander I. The effect of the Battle of Copenhagen and the Tsar’s murder was to bring about the collapse of the Northern Confederation.
Casualties at the Battle of Copenhagen:
British casualties were 253 men killed and 688 men wounded. No British ship was lost. The Danes lost 790 men killed, 900 men wounded and 2,000 made prisoner.
Destruction of the Danish Fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Thomas Whitcombe
Admiral Nelson writing the letter to the Danish Crown Prince at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Thomas Davidson
Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Copenhagen:
The letter Admiral Lord Nelson sent to the Crown Prince of Denmark at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
- The letter Nelson sent to the Crown Prince by Captain Thesiger stated: Lord Nelson has directions to spare Denmark when no longer resisting but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark Lord Nelson will be obliged to set on fire all the floating batteries he has taken, without having the power of sparing the Brave Danes who have defended them. Dated on board his Britannick Majesty’s ship Elephant Copenhagen Roads April 2 nd 1801 Nelson &BrontéVice Admiral under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. (Nelson’s signature referred to the title of Duke of Bronté (Duca di Bronté), conferred on him by the King of Sicily after the Battle of the Nile).
- Nelson considered the Battle of Copenhagen to be his hardest fought fleet action. Although hampered by many of their ships being unprepared for service, the Danes fought fiercely and, at times, with desperation in defence of their capital city, relays of army and civilian reinforcements replacing the losses in the batteries.
- The battle sealed Nelson’s reputation as Britain’s foremost naval leader. Soon afterwards, Sir Hyde Parker was recalled and Nelson left in command of the operations in the Baltic.
- The incident with the signal became an important part of the Nelson legend.
- The attack on Copenhagen, considered essential by the British to prevent the Danish Fleet from acting in the French interests, caused great resentment against Britain in Denmark. On Nelson’s return to England and appearance at court, King George III did not mention the battle.
Captain Bligh being cast adrift after the Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789: Bligh commanded HMS Gratton at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
Dinner in the wardroom of HMS Elephant the night before the Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Thomas Davidson
Naval General Service medal 1793-1840 with Copenhagen clasp and badge of the 95th Rifles: Battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April 1801 in the Napoleonic Wars
References for the Battle of Copenhagen:
Life of Nelson by Robert Southey
British Battles on Land and Sea edited by Sir Evelyn Wood
The previous battle of the Napoleonic Wars is the Battle of Alexandria
The next battle of the Napoleonic Wars is the Battle of Trafalgar
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HMS Monarch firing broadside - History
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